Monday, November 07, 2011

Brown-Sugar Oat Scones

After a five-day power outage, it still feels so utterly decadent to do things like run water, flip on lights, open the cold fridge, and heat the oven—so I couldn’t resist baking a weekend breakfast treat. That said, though, earlier in the week I baked on our wood stove for the first time ever, and it was a fantastic experience. I made my regular biscuits, but first I preheated our heavy, lidded Dutch oven over the very hot stove for a long, long time—an hour or so. Then I opened it, popped in a piece of parchment and half the biscuits, and lidded it up again. I cooked the biscuits for 12 or so minutes (I’d rolled them thinner than usual), flipping them halfway through. And they were, um, perfect. I will certainly make a habit of baking on the stove. I love the rough beauty of it, and the conservation of energy, and the pioneering satisfaction.

We are trying to hold onto the best that life without power had to offer us: long, candlelit evenings and an absence of internet distraction in particular. Also, though, something else. Something like a kind of courage—to be imperfect, maybe. “Come for dinner,” we said. “Come for lunch. We’ll just wing it.” I have never felt so free simply to put honest, humble meals on the table. Even though, and I know you know this, that’s pretty much all I do anyway. But somehow, with the obvious limiting context of the power outage, I just felt so open and improvisational. I will have to think more about this and try to explain it better—but I think it’s a feeling for me to hold onto.
We are as delicious as we look, we promise! We are not secretly made of oat-scented cardboard like those other scones that broke your heart!

Okay, but these scones: Michael hates scones, so I almost never make them. He feels like they’re this kind of false promise of deliciousness that turns out to be dry and tasteless, and I know what he means. But these are simultaneously rugged and delicate: coarse and grainy, but then really quite buttery and moist and sweet. The kids and I love them, and Michael likes them okay. “But seriously,” he said, when I pressed him. “I don’t really think that generating great love for another baked good is high on my to-do list.” Fair enough.

Brown-Sugar Oat Scones
Makes 8
Active time: 10 minutes; total time: 30 minutes

This is an adaptation of Deborah Madison’s Oat Scones from her wonderful bible, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I use all whole-wheat flour, half-and-half (she suggests either milk or cream), and a good deal more sugar and salt. But, then, that’s just what I’m like.

1 cup rolled oats, plus more for the counter
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
2/3 cup half and half (or a mix of milk and cream, or, if you must, milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 425, and get out a non-stick baking pan. If it’s not reliably non-stick, grease it or line it with parchment.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the butter pieces and toss with your hands to coat them with flour. Now use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients, lifting handfuls of the mixture up out of the bowl, then gently letting it fall through your fingertips as you rub it lightly together. Eventually, you'll have a bowl full of lumpy sandy crumbs, which is what you're going for—don’t try mixing it until it’s all nice and even.

Whisk together the egg, half and half, and vanilla, then pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just barely combined.

Scatter some oats on your clean counter, dump the dough out onto it, and pat it into a circle that’s a half an inch (or so) thick. Use a knife to cut it into 8 wedges, put them on the baking sheet, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until nicely browned. Serve warm, plain or with butter and/or honey and/or jam.
Really? Just leave that one little peasley old tablespoon of butter behind? Yup. Though I'm tempted just to toss it in.

The pebbly mixture. I don't do this in a food processor because I don't want to grind the oats up.

The dough is pretty wet, which is fine--you're not actually interacting with it for very long.

Just a quick pat and cut.

And they're ready to bake. This is Craney's "You didn't know about scones and how they're my favorite?" face.

Baked. I love their rustic look.

The grabbing of the scones.

Ben played with the honey the whole time the scones were baking.

And then put plenty on his plate.

Along with plenty of other stuff too. I love this picture, where the scone is dwarfed by honey and jam.


  1. Angela11:56 AM

    Mmm! They look good and I am off to bake them Right Now! Even though I, too, don't really need to cultivate the love of another Baked Good. :)

  2. alison12:57 PM

    The reasons why Michael dosen't like scones is exactly why I LOVE them. I love that they are dry and hard to chew and cardboardy. My teeth are aching right now just thinking about eating them... yum!

  3. Yum! Can't wait to try them. We've had lots of scone failures and a few successes around here too.

  4. Angela2:13 PM

    Not chewy or cardboardy but absolutely delicious - I ate mine without jam or honey, which must make them even more wholesome (or just mean that I ate an extra one?).... thanks!

  5. I'm thinking these need some nice cinnamon baked apples to go with them.

  6. Beautiful! My love of baked goods is huge and clumsy and takes over every room it enters.

  7. Love the idea of not worrying about winging it for dinner. We had power but I am not a good cook (I vicariously live through your website -- and I did once make the dill popcorn). However, family that did not have power was so happy to come over for salad and pasta made with pasta sauce from a jar. It was a very fun night in a house with heat and running water! A friend of mine feels like Michael and refers to scones as "Dry and Damaged" (like a shampoo commercial). I like them but I always think of this description!

  8. Mmm, scones! We don't eat wheat, but I'm going to blend your recipe with our basic scone - yummy with hunny! I always appreciate your voice in your writing - glad you're keeping it going here on your blog. I think I originally found you on Babycenter lo' these many years ago.

  9. Hey, do you think that I could use whole wheat pastry flour with these? I bought that flour so I could make the ginger-cherry-chocolate gems for my MIL and friend (both of whom love ginger and molasses)...and now I have some left. (PS: the cookies were a hit. I liked them too, especially that I enjoyed them but didn't want to eat them all at once.)

  10. Ami, totally. I have a kind of one-size-fits-all whole-wheat flour situation, but pastry flour would be great. You're storing it in the fridge, right? Whole-grain flours can get off-tasting so quickly at room temp. . .


  11. Angela12:06 PM

    I keep my wholewheat flour at room temperature and I hadn't noticed them tasting off (I use them pretty quickly though) - they should be in the fridge? Airtight or not??

  12. Anonymous1:20 PM

    I made these with barley flour. So delicious with strawberry rhubarb jam.

  13. My Mom would love these! I am not a huge scone fan (and I'm English) I have to agree with Micheal. These though are tempting me so that is a good sign!

  14. Completely off topic- this is what being pregnant is like for me today: Reading "Waiting for Birdy" for the fifth time and crying about the part where she might have cystic fibrosis. And I do know how it turns out!
    Ah, hormones.
    Thank you for the amazing companionship of this book as I wait for baby number two to blossom!

  15. maxanyamom11:32 AM

    I made these this morning. Delish! I was worried that I had put in too much half & half because the dough was super sticky and hard to transfer to the baking sheet. Maybe I did put in too much or maybe I overworked the dough when mixing the wet ingredients into the dry ones, but no matter. The finished product was wonderful. My 8 year old son declared, "These are the best scones I've ever had! All the other ones I've tried have just been too dry for my liking." Thanks for another fantastic recipe!!

  16. We have a place here in Burlington, VT called Stone Soup, where they have redefined scones - vegan, even. If you're ever back in town, I recommend a trip to College St. and experience them.

  17. Just made a batch with my daughter. I think she might be able to make these by herself next time. They turned out so absolutely wonderful that all the boys running around the house for my son's sleepover have been stuffing them down their throats all evening.